the first time i went to cafe colbar and mentioned it to my boss, he said it had moved from its original location. colonial bar, which got shortened to colbar, was set up in 1953 at jalan hang jebat and served as a canteen cum hangout for the british army personnel living in the area. in 2003, at the age of fifty, it would have faced sudden demise to make way for a road. people petitioned to save colbar. jurong town corporation, the company in charge of the ambitious one-north development for which the new roads were being made, came up with an option, and the cafe was reconstructed at 9a whitchurch road in wessex estate.
we were meandering through one-north on this walk, along the new extension of portsdown road.
i was surprised to hear colbar had been moved and wasn’t that old because everything at the café carried about it a sense of time, age. the original place, i found out later, was dismantled with great care and the tiles and timber, doors, windows, etc., moved along with the cafe to its new location. someone had thought of preservation.
it’s hard to describe what taking along and reusing old parts of a place does really to the atmosphere. even why the the original material should have such an impact on the feel of a place. i have noticed though that it does. history was never my favourite subject in school, but now i see history adds a note that is invaluable, it enriches. an experience, a place… a person. it definitely added to the charm of this simple cafe hidden away from the glare of city lights.
we had planned to walk from the quiet lanes of wessex estate to the gleaming new mediapolis just coming up in buona vista.
all through my years here, i have lived close to buona vista which is toward the south of singaore going westward. i remember there being nothing in a large part of this area except greenery, thickets and woods, and clusters of old black and white houses tucked among them. there was a stretch between commonwealth avenue and the beginning of nus, the university, which could only be called “ulu” or boonies as my aunt likes to say.
now it’s sparkling with lights from skyscrapers at night, the upgraded mrt station is busy all the time, the star vista mall nearby looks futuristic and spaceship like and is getting crowded, there’s a new mall i noticed the other day… there are hotels, serviced apartments, and many many office towers, logos and signages of big corporate names mounted on them.
it’s been astonishing to watch the development of a new “city centre” literally. started a while ago with biopolis and the area was branded one-north, singapore being about one degree north of the equator. then came fusionopolis. and now mediapolis… as the name suggests, all media companies are expected to set up offices/move here. many ad agencies have already relocated. one of the biggest shifts, which is still underway, is that of mediacorp, singapore’s mega television and radio corporation.
the winding roads of wessex estate have pretty black and white houses, now some of them are artists’ studios. the shade of old trees and bird calls all around. you feel as if walking very very slowly will be quite in order and you absolutely don’t waste the chance. colbar is not yet open, so the walkers go in to take pictures in peace.
if lost time is lounging about in a cafe or a cul de sac here, right in front just about ten minutes away, the determined grabbing of the future is on… glass and glitter, massive new structures, cranes still up on many sites.
i stood before the fabulous new mediacorp building, all bluish glass and deadly curves and hey look at how gorgeous i am, and thought… does it miss the ghosts?
being in advertising, i heard of mediacorp and its caldecott office soon after coming here. i have been there as well. every time you mentioned mediacorp, someone or the brought up the ghosts. i have heard many stories. the girl who a taxi driver picked up one night from just outside and who simply disappeared… the headless man… the woman in white, etc. no one spoke of stars and shows and all that stuff, just the spooks.
i wondered if mediacorp missed its haunters, its old home, the nurseries nearby.
i thought of the quaint colbar and the anything but quaint mediacorp and wondered how they had felt about leaving where they belonged to and finding a new location. i wondered if a location ever becomes home.
at thirty seven, i left home and came here, not really sure how long i’d stay. then years passed and here i am, walking about trying to get to know the city that has offered me a home for so long. it’s hard to describe what a person who has left their original place feels. perhaps we’ll never know how the buildings feel either. someone is guffawing, is indi mad? buildings don’t have feelings. i hope i brought along all my ghosts and the timber and tiles.
road to singapore, portsdown road, woking road, whitchurch road, media walk, media circle, 09/03/2016 #SG50
end of 1997, we moved to singapore from india. in 2015, the country celebrated fifty years of independence. singapore has given me much and i am fascinated by the spirit of this gutsy city state with hardly any land or resources, but oh what dreams and chutzpah (the finest interpretation of the word), the ability to reach big, hunker down and hold and strategise and act and grow. despite my many years here, i haven’t seen a lot of the island, which started out at only 28 miles by 18. now of course it’s bigger, thanks to that spirit i spoke of. so anthony john or aj as i call him, my walking partner, and i decided to do fifty walks in the island to celebrate #SG50. well, we didn’t stop at fifty; couldn’t. there was still so much to see and feel and also how not to let the hot, merciless, climate-change sun not have its way with us. so the walks continue, as does the walk talk. hope you enjoy, try to bring an umbrella.